Elections in two provinces will take place in April, according to a Pakistani poll panel.
Final election dates for two provinces whose assemblies were dissolved earlier this month as part of former prime minister Imran Khan's effort to push early national elections have been set by Pakistan's electoral commission.
Although historically provincial elections have occurred concurrently with presidential elections, Pakistan's constitution also mandates that new elections be held in a province within 90 days of the dissolution of its parliament.
In a letter sent on Wednesday, the commission requested that elections be held no later than April 13 for Punjab and April 17 for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The precise dates are up to the governors.
The announcement that about 70% of voters would cast ballots months before the national election, set for October 2023, was hailed by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which had control of both provinces before the assemblies were dissolved.
Since losing the presidency in April of last year due to a confidence vote in the parliament, Khan has been calling for an immediate national election. The action taken by his party to dissolve the provincial assemblies was intended to increase the pressure on the administration to call the election.
Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa finance minister and PTI politician Taimur Jhagra argued that both provinces' governors should make a decision on election dates right away.
He told Al Jazeera, "We keep seeing officials of the ruling alliance making public pronouncements about finding one justification after another to postpone the polls.
"The federal government is reluctant to hold elections now, and if they do, they are well aware that PTI will win handily. They are employing every trick in the book to delay the polls, despite the fact that opinion surveys and public sentiment all indicate that things are improving, he continued.
Former Sindh provincial governor and vice president of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, one of the main coalition allies, Muhammed Zubair, rejected the notion that the provincial elections would be postponed.
"Nobody in the government has a different viewpoint. We don't need to spread unneeded anxiety, he told Al Jazeera. The governors of both provinces have received letters from the election commission outlining proposed election dates. It will be the commission's responsibility to appear in court and defend any need for the delay.
Political analyst Majid Nizami, who is based in Lahore, told Al Jazeera that it is safe to "resume that the PTI enjoys a definite advantage" in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Nizami stated, "We can say that based on the outcomes of the by-elections held in July of last year as well as Imran Khan's own triumphs in the elections he ran in in October.
“If PTI wins the provincial assembly elections,” he said, “it is obvious who will win the national assembly elections.”
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